NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vanderbilt women’s basketball team will take part in its final game of the regular season Sunday when it plays host to Florida.
But, even bigger than that, head coach Stephanie White and the Commodores — along with Nashville native Antoine Riley — will partner with Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee to grant a wish for a boy named Taylor to go to Disney World.
“I am so thankful for the opportunity to partner with Antoine Riley and Make-A-Wish Middle Tennessee to provide a wish to a family in need of some joy,” White said. “These families are going through so much, fighting day in and day out. If we can provide a reprieve from that fight, even for one moment, it’s worth it. We are in awe of the strength of these children and their families. We are grateful to be in a position to grant their wish.”
Granting a wish during the final home game of the season has been a staple for Vanderbilt women’s basketball during each of the past three seasons of the White era.
“Coach White and her family have supported Make-A-Wish for a long time,” said Maggie Schwartz, events coordinator for Make-A-Wish. “When she accepted the position at Vanderbilt, her family got involved right away. The tradition of announcing a wish at the last home game of the season is a celebration of coach White’s commitment to the community, a celebration of the seniors and their hard work, and it’s a chance for a wish kid to be part of the Vanderbilt women’s basketball family. Together, with women’s basketball, Vanderbilt and Coach White, a wish kid gets a community of support.”
Last season, a wish was granted for a young girl named Noel to go to Disney World. It was an experience that she will not soon forget.
“Noel still talks about this unbelievable experience,” said Noel’s mother, Becky. “It was wonderful for our family to spend a week together without thinking about hospital visits, chemotherapy treatments, or other medical procedures. We will forever cherish the memories we made during Noel’s wish trip to Disney World. Noel is now a childhood leukemia survivor who plans to become a teacher when she grows up.”
The platform is bigger than basketball, and being able to celebrate giving an experience to a child and family going through a rough time is one of the best parts of the season.
“Having women’s basketball celebrate wishes being granted in Middle Tennessee is powerful,” Schwartz said. “Sharing the power of a wish with the members of the team and their fans helps us engage more people in our mission. In the moment, it’s about a wish being granted and the legacy of that wish is shared by everyone in attendance.
“When a child is diagnosed with a critical illness, their life changes. Rather than ballet and basketball, their schedule is made up of surgeries and doctor appointments. When we grant a wish, these kids get part of their childhood back. Wish kids and their families are given something to celebrate in a challenging time and these wishes are a great distraction from their medical challenge.”